Bread in a bakery. Probably contains gluten.

Going After Gluten: Tackling Fads & Annoying People

I like to call out bullshit on the Internet. One article of BS, I think, is the increasing trend of people to say they are “sensitive to gluten.” Although there’s been a lot of talk about this, and I have met a ton of people who said they are sensitive to gluten, where the science is concerned (so far), it appears that gluten sensitivity is mostly in your head. The evidence for this? A study by the scientist who originally concluded in a previous study that people were sensitive to gluten, which may have set off this whole thing.

I’ve heard people say that erasing gluten from their diet has led to all sorts of wondrous things, which always sets my sensors off. Whenever something gets blamed for a ton of problems, I get skeptical. Whenever a lot of people suddenly go crazy over something like this (i.e., not pop culture like a band or a TV show) I get skeptical. And in this case, I really do wonder if it might be harmful for everyone else in society. For instance, will people start demanding that government impose a gluten ban? If you had asked me that even a year ago, I would have said “Doubtful,” but seeing the craziness going on in society today, I’m not so sure. In most cases, there doesn’t seem to be a solid reasoning process going on, and that’s not a good thing.

The other thing that also puts me on alert is the defensiveness people get whenever I post something skeptical about gluten sensitivity, or when I bring up in conversation that I think it’s mostly bunk. Whenever I see someone getting defensive about things like this, my mind immediately starts thinking “ooh, cultish behavior.” Even if it’s not entirely fair (and it really isn’t fair in 90% of cases) my mind still does that. But sometimes it can really piss people off.

One article I posted on my Facebook wall was titled “Science Proves Gluten Sensitivity Isn’t Real, People Are Just Whiners“. Yeouch. That’s already taking a hard edge. I got into it with one guy about it (who got pretty defensive and upset about the article, and continued to be when I also posted the above PBS article) and then just let it be. Then someone else commented on it, asking why people had to attack those who claim they are sensitive to gluten (ok, my paraphrasing) as “whiners”, why reading “a few idiot articles online entitles people to look down on others’ health problems”, and “why does it hurt so much that there are some people avoiding gluten”. I wanted to write a response, but instead I thought about it, because I think she brings up good points.

There are some instances where mocking and calling people out forcefully are in demand. When you care about someone personally and they make self-destructive decisions, it might help. (Note I said might.) When someone wants to impose policies to the detriment of individuals using force, say, by replacing capitalism (the economic system of people being left alone to make their own decisions and persue their own self-interest, and which also led to the greatest rise in prosperity in human history) with socialism (the economic system of the central government owning the means of production and imposing its decisions on the people, and which also led to the one of the highest death tolls in human history), I think it’s fair to call such people “tyrants,” “wannabe mass murderers,” and other such names, because let’s face it, that’s the end result of their ideas. On religion, I’ve always held that we shouldn’t necessarily try to embarrass people in public, but in private, if someone says something that is either on its face absurd or deeply offensive, you should call them out on it and basically say “This is why you look like an idiot.” And no, you’re not being rude; they are, for demanding you believe something that is patently absurd and has no evidence. That is rude to any intellectual person.

But what about erasing gluten from your diet? I’ve thought about it…and it just doesn’t rise to anywhere near the same level. When the gluten sensitive start a campaign to ban gluten and use government to meddle more in our diets, call me. I’ll be there to denounce it. But for now, I can’t get that upset. I still find it personally annoying when there’s someone who claims they have this sensitivity and forces us to revolve all lunch plans around them (unless we order separately or it doesn’t affect our decision model much, and most people I know don’t make themselves the center of attention), but how annoyed can I really get? Calling people “whiners” for personal dietary choices is unfair and inappropriate. As long as they’re not harming you, you shouldn’t be using that kind of language. Maybe you think it’s silly – you can definitely say it in that way – but they’re not whiners. That’s just being unnecessarily mean. You don’t have to eat a gluten free diet, you can go off and choose what you want to eat. That’s the point of a free market society: individuals being allowed to make their own decisions. You make yours, they make theirs, you respect each others’ choices, we’re all good.

Usually, when people say they are hurt, I have the Stephen Fry response. Not here, however. In this case, I am being a jerk, somewhat, over a rather unimportant issue that doesn’t directly affect me. That’s just unnecessary and rude. I won’t actually apologize for posting the article, as I think it was actually fairly detailed and really informative. I do wish the authors had chosen a less hostile headline, though. I also hope I didn’t cause too much serious discomfort by posting it, and I will try to be more attentive in the future.

But for pete’s sakes, don’t get me started on those raw vegans. Holy crap…